- The Abbey of the Genesee - http://www.geneseeabbey.org -

October 1, 2015

Fr. John Denburger, OCSO [1]

26th Thursday in Ordinary Time
Memorial of St.Therese
Nehemiah 8: 1 – 4, 5 – 6, 7b – 12; Ps 19; Luke 10: 1 – 12

The passage from the Book of Nehemiah brings to mind the recent visit of Pope Francis to our country. There is the proclaiming of God’s Sacred Word to a large congregation; there is the response of the people in word, in gesture, in acclamation. In both situations, one of centuries ago and the other just last week, a scribe and a pope stood before people and their words profoundly touched hearts. What was behind all this – what else but the Presence of God, realized or not!

As Ezra the Scribe read the Word of God to the congregation of men, women and children old enough to understand, can it not be said that waves of Divine Presence, the breath of the Holy Spirit passed over them and through them and they were deeply moved?

Nehemiah lists one after another the response of the congregation:

They listened attentively;
They rose with hands held high;
They bowed and prostrated before the Lord with faces to the ground;
They celebrated;
They rejoiced in the Lord because He must be their strength.

Clearly, they were totally present to the Divine Presence. The Spirit of God captured them, held them in awe.

The key, the source to all these gestures is found in the very first one: They listened attentively. They were captivated. Faith comes through hearing and hear, they did.

Today we celebrate the feast of an attentive listener, St. Therese of the Child Jesus who heard her personal calling within her Carmelite vocation. She wrote of her experience: “I turned to the epistles of St. Paul…By chance the 12th and 13th chapters of First Corinthians caught my attention…I persevered until I found this encouraging theme: ‘Set your desires on the greater gifts. And I will now show you the way that surpasses all others.’ The Apostle insists that the greater gifts are nothing without love…At length I found my peace of mind. I proclaimed: In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love.” (From her Autobiography) Attentive listening leads to attentive living.

Through the word of Nehemiah and the experience of St. Therese, we are clearly reminded as baptized men and women, as vowed monks that our vocation calls us to listen attentively to God’s word in the public proclamation in the Sacred Liturgy and in our private reading. In both the waves of the Divine Presence surround us too, the breath of the Holy Spirit enlivens us to conversion of heart in Jesus Christ.

And so, in our lives, in our own personal presence to the Sacred Word, what is the quality, the depth of attentive listening?